Head lice: how to recognize them and what to do to eliminate them

Head lice: how to recognize them and what to do to eliminate them

Head lice can be treated effectively. Here are the symptoms, causes, transmission and remedies for head and pubic pediculosis

Cause of infestations (pediculosis) very frequent all over the world, lice are small parasites that live on humans and suck their blood.

What are lice and how to recognize lice

The louse is nothing more than a small parasite, wingless and with 6 legs, which attaches itself to the scalp (Pediculus capitis), to the body (Pediculus humanus) or to the pubis (Phthirus pubis) to feed on human blood.

The head louse is by far the most widespread and looks like a sort of insect about 1-3 mm long (similar in size to that of a sesame seed) with a white-gray color. The pubic louse, on the other hand, has a more flattened shape (hence the name of "cattail"), while that of the body is similar to the head louse although now quite rare.

It is easy for lice infestation to run quickly because the symptoms related to pediculosis do not manifest immediately: the symptoms, in fact, become clear when the louse begins to suck blood, causing intense itching.

To prevent the rapid reproduction of lice, it is essential to identify as soon as possible the possible presence of the eggs of this small parasite, that is the nits, tiny elements with a "pine nut" shape and a light mother-of-pearl color, firmly anchored to the hair shaft. near the scalp, or between the hair of the armpits or pubis.

If the number of eggs laid changes depending on the species (ranging from 80 to 300 eggs laid on the host), in all cases the louse eggs hatch within 7 days.

How to distinguish dandruff and lice eggs?

In addition to the different shapes (flakes in dandruff and "drop" or "pine nut" in eggs), to distinguish nits from dandruff it is sufficient to shake the head or blow on the head of the potentially infested person: if the dandruff slips easily in fact, the nits remain attached to the hair thanks to a sort of very resistant glue with which the female louse anchors the eggs to the hair.

Causes and transmission

Head lice were once thought to be associated with poor hair and scalp hygiene. Instead this is absolutely not true. Pediculosis can affect any type of hair and has nothing to do with the frequency of shampooing.

In fact, lice are transmitted from head to head within contexts in which we live in close contact, such as the family unit or school. Transmission may also occur indirectly, for example through the sharing of pillows, clothes, towels or brushes, but since lice cannot live long outside their natural "habitat", the greatest transmission constraint remains the direct contact.

Pubic lice, on the other hand, are transmitted through intimate contact.


In addition to the presence of small parasites, the most common and also the most characteristic symptom of the presence of lice is the classic itching in the area affected by the infection.

For example, when a child begins to scratch his head frequently, insisting on the area behind the ear and on the nape of the neck, it is very likely that there is pediculosis, and it is therefore advisable to check immediately.

The tendency to scratch persistently can in turn cause dermatitis, irritation, scabs, blisters, and other similar conditions.

How to tell if you have head lice

To check or avoid the presence of lice and / or nits, you must first equip yourself with a specific fine-toothed comb. It is the comb used for the control (but also for the treatment) of pediculosis and can be found in pharmacies, parapharmacies and even in the supermarket. It has small dimensions and very dense and thin, rigid teeth.

At this point we settle in a bright place and pass the comb over the scalp and along the lengths, from root to tip. Then looking at the teeth of the comb against the light you will notice any lice (often they move!) And nits.


As soon as lice and nits are discovered, it is necessary to intervene through the use of specific insecticidal products, on sale in spray, powder, shampoo or lotion format in pharmacies, parapharmacies and supermarkets.

These products, in association with the use of the special comb, eliminate lice and cause the immediate cessation of itching (unless the skin is very irritated, in this case it may take a few days). Generally, a second application is required 7-10 days after the first, in order to kill any lice born from the eggs that survived the first treatment.

As for the pubic louse, however, the simplest system is to shave the hair of the infested areas (which can also include all the other hairy areas of the body such as chest, thighs, armpits, eyelashes, eyebrows, beard and mustache, but NEVER hair) and eventually resort to the use of insecticidal lotions.

For a consultation on the type and method of use of products to choose, it is good to rely on the instructions of your doctor.

There are also other methods, used especially if pediculosis episodes are frequent. One of these is called wet combing and consists, after washing the hair as usual, in applying traditional conditioner and combing the hair with a fine-toothed comb for a period ranging from 5 to 15 minutes, a practice that allows you to effectively eliminate all the nits present in the hair. The comb is cleaned with a tissue at each step and, at the end, it is rinsed.


Can pediculosis be prevented? Although there are many products on the market that are advertised as preventive treatments, true lice prevention passes through other ways: in this sense, compliance with basic hygiene rules is essential, such as changing clothes regularly, avoiding exchanging items for personal use and having sex. sure. And if there has been an episode of pediculosis in the family or in the community, it is necessary to wash what the infested person came into contact with (towels, sheets, pillow cases, sofa covers, sleeping bags) at a temperature of not less than 70 °.

It is also important to check your scalp and hair frequently if the fatal itch starts to appear.

Category: Welfare
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